Drivers unable to kick illegal use of handheld phones even if causing a crash
Only three in five
drivers who use a handheld phone say causing a crash would make them kick the
Not even the
thought of causing an accident appears to be enough for some drivers to
permanently break the habit of illegally using a handheld phone at the wheel,
research for the RAC’s ‘Be Phone Smart’ campaign has found.
encourages drivers to rethink their relationship with their phone whenever
It has the backing
of a wide range of organisations and initiatives including the National Police
Chiefs’ Council, THINK!, IAM RoadSmart, the Road Haulage Association, Road
Safety GB, Transport Scotland and a number of UK police forces.
At its core is a
website, www.BePhoneSmart.uk, offering hints and tips to drivers and providing an
opportunity to make, and share via Facebook and Twitter, an online promise to
not use a handheld phone at the wheel. The campaign hashtag is #BePhoneSmart.
While 60% of
drivers said causing an accident would make them stop for good, the RAC is
surprised the figure is not significantly higher given that the consequences
can be so severe in terms of the impact on human life.
When given a range
of scenarios which might make a driver immediately stop using a mobile phone
illegally, being personally responsible for causing an accident came top,
followed by being caught or the threat of being caught by a police officer (55%
and 54% respectively), knowing the victim of an accident where handheld phone
use was a factor (54%), and causing a near-miss (53%).
suggest a sizeable minority of drivers still do not see anything wrong with
using a handheld phone illegally because they believe they are not likely to
cause an accident or be stopped by the police.
That is despite
the clear risk of distraction while using a handheld phone - as shown by a
number of high profile cases reported in the media - and the fact that police
forces are now much more visible in their enforcement of the law on mobile
A total of 86% of
those motorists who admitted to using a handheld phone claimed they would be
willing to give up the illegal habit for good. Drivers cited the police as
being the group that would have the biggest positive influence on them stopping
(25% of respondents), suggesting that enforcement of the law was key to getting
motorists to change their ways.
were also seen as having an important role in making drivers rethink how they
used their phone in the car, with 18% of respondents saying that group would
have greatest impact on them giving up. A similar proportion said that they
thought the work of road safety campaigners would encourage them to kick the
habit, followed by government (8%) and friends (6%).
The figures also
highlight how being sat in stationary traffic increased the likelihood of
drivers reaching for their phone and using it at the wheel with more than half
(57%) of those who admitted to using a handheld phone saying that was when they
were most likely to do so.
said the RAC, that addicted motorists were struggling to resist the temptation
to use their phone, and perhaps used it to seek relief from the boredom of
Pete Williams, spokesperson
for the RAC’s ‘Be Phone Smart’ campaign, said: “It seems reasonable to
expect that causing an accident while using a handheld phone would be enough to
force every driver to change
their ways. But our data suggests otherwise - while six in 10 motorists told us
they thought that would motivate them to kick the illegal habit, that indicates
a remarkable four in 10 didn’t think it would.
“This is a
worrying statistic and suggests that some drivers are still failing to see just
how distracting using a handheld phone at the wheel can be, even though it has
been illegal in the UK since 2003.
“Our research also
highlights the extent to which sitting in traffic congestion is intrinsically
linked to the compulsion to interact with a handheld device - drivers see this
as ‘spare time’ to fill by using their phone, but it remains illegal and
use has become rooted in the behaviour of some drivers and it is going to take
a herculean effort to change their mindset. No single action will achieve this
and we need to educate a combination of education so drivers understand the
dangers, encourage them to give the habit up, and combine this with rigorous
enforcement of the law, so those breaking the law can expect to get caught.”